Better Comms Means a Fitter Future for Pharma, Part 1: Challenges and Changes

August 6, 2014
Adeline Siew

Adeline Siew is the editor of Pharmaceutical Technology Europe. Adeline Siew joined the editorial team of Pharmaceutical Technology and BioPharm International in 2012. She has a pharmacy degree from the University of Strathclyde and a PhD in Pharmaceutics (Drug Delivery) from the School of Pharmacy, University of London, where she also did her post doctorate research. She previously worked as an editor at IMS Health and BioMed Central before joining Advanstar’s Pharm Sciences group.

For an industry that saves millions of lives, pharma is sometimes unfairly perceived by the public as being aloof, unresponsive, or occasionally worse.

Guest blog by Richard Freeman, sales manager at MeetingZone

For an industry that saves millions of lives, pharma is sometimes unfairly perceived by the public as being aloof, unresponsive, or occasionally worse. People outside the sector rarely appreciate the difficulty and cost of bringing new drugs to market, particularly when it comes to rolling them out in emerging global markets such as China, India and Africa.

Although globalization offers the prospect of vastly expanding the market for pharmaceuticals, grasping that opportunity is easier said than done. For a start, firms must ensure they understand and comply with a plethora of ever-changing regulation that varies from country to country. They generally need to liaise with hospitals and other medical and regulatory bodies to conduct country-specific clinical trials, even where a drug has been tested and approved elsewhere. And they may also have to contend with differing cultural attitudes to Western medicine that require them to tailor their marketing efforts accordingly.

While every pharma firm would love to come up with the next blockbuster drug, it is becoming far harder, if not impossible, to find treatments for diseases affecting a large proportion of the population. Pharma firms today typically focus on developing drugs to treat less common ailments, which means the market for any resulting product is likely to be far smaller.

Given it can take 10 years and in excess of $1 billion to transform an idea on paper into a pill in a packet, developing new drugs for untapped markets is evidently a risky and expensive business-all the more so given there are no guarantees of a healthy profit at the end of the process. These factors in turn are helping to fuel ever more merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the sector, as industry giants seek to acquire smaller companies with promising drugs in the pipeline.

Clearly, if firms want to maintain profitability in this increasingly competitive, highly regulated and culturally diverse global landscape, they need to work faster and more efficiently. To this end, it’s critical they improve the way they communicate and collaborate, both within and outside their company walls.

First, this means ensuring they have the kind of collaborative culture where staff can approach people internally whenever they need to, rather than having to go through convoluted chains of command to access the information or approvals they require. Beyond this, they need effective ways to communicate, collaborate and build relationships with a diverse range of organisations and individuals outside the company-be that hospitals and universities, researchers, medical bodies, regulators, other pharma firms or the wider public.

While a cultural change must be purposefully driven by an organisation, technology can certainly give their efforts a welcome shot in the arm. And unified communications (UC) should be a central plank in any forward-thinking pharma firm’s development strategy.

UC brings together a number of technologies including desktop telephony, videoconferencing, “presence” (i.e., the ability to see when someone is online and available), instant messaging, screen-sharing and interactive whiteboarding. In essence, it makes it easy for people to access all the communication and collaboration tools they require, whenever and wherever they need them, in a simple, consistent and intuitive way, regardless of whether they’re collaborating on a project internally or externally, with one person or many, using voice, text, video or any combination of media.

Pharma firms that embrace a collaborative approach can use UC to help improve agility and efficiency; ensure compliance and security; gain more accurate, timely insights into the markets they’re targeting; and build healthier, more productive relationships – both internally and externally.

In Part 2, Richard Freeman explains how to choose the right solution and realize the benefits.